Asher on Aspen: Music City Escape
Asher on Aspen
You could hear it before you could even see it. The streets vibrated with familiar music and my soul’s roots. I’m certainly not from the South, but I feel like I could have been in a past life. Rounding the corner to Broadway and onto Honky Tonk Row, I felt right at home. After a long pandemic winter in Aspen, I was beyond ready for an off-season getaway. I had only been in the city for five days, but Nashville was already well on its way to stealing my heart.
The craziest, most unique thing about Nashville is that every bar is essentially a concert, and patrons simply choose which concert they want to attend. It’s incredible how much live performance fuels it (hence the nickname “Music City”). Live music has such an intoxicating effect on people, and it’s astonishing how much it brings people and their communities together. After a year-plus of no Belly Up concerts to attend in Aspen, music at every single bar was the best feeling in the world. Starting at 10 a.m., it didn’t let up until at least 2 a.m. when the bars closed.
Our Music City adventure started with a trek to Old Hickory Lake with our friend Casey from Aspen who is a Nashville native. About 45 miles outside of downtown Nashville, this is the legendary lake Johnny Cash and June Carter called home for more than 30 years. We were able to drive the boat up right next to their famous, lakefront property. After a full lake tour, one by one, we each had a turn on the surfboard and were able to catch some waves behind the boat. It was the perfect way to start the trip, and the only way I’d want to kick off summer.
Whilst in the heart of Tennessee, we stayed at two unique hotels. The first was called Graduate Nashville — super funky, playful, and chock-full of country music archives. Its Dolly Parton-themed rooftop bar, White Limozeen, provided stunning views of the city skyline. All shades of pink had a presence there—including pink drapery, walls and vintage fabrics. The beautifully bedazzled wraparound bar looked like something that El from “Legally Blonde” would have loved.
The second hotel was the opulent five-star The Hermitage — the longest-running hotel in the city. Its signature Capital Grille restaurant first opened in 1910 and it still serves authentic Southern fare. My travel companion Taylor ordered the New York strip steak, while I indulged in the flounder. Our server, Miles, offered us refreshing blueberry mojitos that paired perfectly with our food. The meal, the service, and the ambiance were immaculate. The most heat-warming part of our stay was the welcome we received by Allison, a guest services manager who coincidentally lived in Aspen for a while and worked at The Little Nell. Sharing this connection put me at ease and made me feel instantly welcome.
Two “touristy” things that we decided to explore were the Johnny Cash Museum and the Grand Ole Opry backstage tour. As an enormous Johnny Cash fan, I was impressed with the vast collection of artifacts and memorabilia on display. It was fascinating to learn more about Sun Records, and the artists they produced including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Furthermore, The Grand Ole Opry backstage tour was an experience I will never forget. I learned that the country-themed television variety show “Hee Haw” was filmed here from 1969 to 1992. Aspen’s own Barbi Benton spent a good amount of time here filming it.
As far as dining experiences go, I can honestly say that there wasn’t one we didn’t enjoy. Eating at The Row Kitchen & Pub on Lyle Avenue was my favorite. The establishment was brimming with country music energy and history. For over 30 years, The Row was the ultimate hangout spot for singers and songwriters. Other restaurants that are worth mentioning are Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant and the Barcelona Wine Bar.
With music spilling out of every doorway on Broadway, we had plenty of options every night for live music. Per our Uber driver’s recommendation, we tried out Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and The Stage. Both of these well-known bars on Broadway provided lively bands that entertained us well into the late hours of the night. If you’re like me and you love live music (especially country music) then you’ll fit right in.
Nashville is a city that makes you want to dance even if you don’t know the steps, sing even if you don’t know the words, and drink at 2 p.m. even if you’re still nursing a hangover from the night before. Though we didn’t have time on this trip, The Country Music Hall of Fame is definitely on my list for next time. My only regret? Not bringing my Stetson and Kemo Sabe cowboy boots. But I’m not worried. I have a feeling I’ll be back sooner rather than later. Yee-haw, y’all!
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